Dubai gold retailer gets 3-year jail term for bounced cheques

The owner of a Dubai-based gold and jewellery retailer was sentenced to three years in prison for writing two cheques totaling AED 34 million (USD 9.26 million) that bounced.

  
ABU DHABI, Nov 12 (Reuters) - The owner of a Dubai-based gold and jewellery retailer was sentenced to three years in prison for writing two cheques totaling 34 million dirhams ($9.26 million) that bounced, local media reported.

Gulf News said the defendant was Indian-born M.M. Ramachandran, owner of Atlas Jewellery, who was arrested in August in cases related to suspected bounced cheques.

Dubai has in recent years joined the likes of London, New York and Hong Kong as a major gold trading centre thanks to its proximity to the world's largest gold consumer, India, and an aggressive drive to become a regional commodities hub.

This is the second scandal involving Dubai jewellery businesses since the city's rise to prominence as a gold trading centre. In March 2010, Dubai sanctioned three brothers for unauthorised withdrawals from their company of 1.94 kg of gold and cash worth about 365 million dirhams.

Dubai court officials were not available for comment but the public prosecutor's office announced a three-year prison term handed down on Thursday to a defendant with Ramachandran's initials for "providing a check in bad faith".

Banking and trade sources said the gold retailer had defaulted on loans worth about 500 million dirhams and banks were considering options including legal action to retrieve their money.

The sources said some 15 mostly local banks had granted loans to Atlas Jewellery, which has more than 50 branches across the Gulf and India. After his arrest, the company asked banks for time to put together a repayment plan.

Atlas Jewellery was founded by Ramachandran in Kuwait in 1981 and moved to Dubai after its trading was suspended by the first Gulf War. It has interests in real estate, healthcare and owns and manages two hospitals in Oman's capital, Muscat.

A spokesman for Atlas did not return calls made by Reuters. ($1 = 3.6730 UAE dirham)

(Reporting By Stanley Carvalho; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Tom Heneghan) ((stanley.carvalho@thomsonreuters.com; + 9712 6444431; Reuters Messaging: stanley.carvalho.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

Keywords: EMIRATES GOLD/PRISON